Bob Gibson, the Hall-of-Fame pitcher who had three complete game victories in the 1967 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, is being honored with a statue funded by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
Buffett, 82, will make remarks at the unveiling of the 8-foot (2.4 meter) tall bronze monument tomorrow at Werner Park in Sarpy County, Nebraska, near Omaha, according to a program for the event.
The statue is the first of Gibson in his hometown and will anchor a new Nebraska hall of fame outside the ballpark where Omaha’s minor-league team plays. Buffett, a fan of the sport who’s also from the city, pledged his support in 2011, according to Lee Polikov, the Sarpy County attorney and one of the project’s organizers.
“Bob and I have been friends for 50 years,” Buffett said in an e-mail sent by his assistant. “By anybody’s standards, he is one of the best baseball players of all time, and I would also say he is the greatest competitor the game has ever seen.”
Gibson, 77, was born in Omaha and attended high school and college in the city. He played his first major league game with the Cardinals in 1959. During his 17-year career with the team, he was a two-time winner of the Cy Young Award, the sport’s highest honor for pitchers. He posted a 1.12 earned run average in 1968, the best figure since 1914.
Former teammates Joe Torre and Tim McCarver are scheduled to attend the unveiling tomorrow, along with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, according to the program. Bill White, a former president of the National League, and Bill DeWitt Jr., chairman of the Cardinals, will also be present.
Clarence Werner, the founder of transportation company Werner Enterprises Inc., funded the statue’s granite base, lighting and landscaping, according to Polikov. The project has also received support from private donors.
Buffett used to throw the first pitch at minor league baseball games after the annual meetings of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the company he built over more than four decades as chairman and chief executive officer. In 2001, he tried batting against Gibson.
“I was terrified, fearing Bob’s famous brush-back pitch,” Buffett wrote in a 2002 letter to shareholders. “Instead, he delivered a fast ball in the strike zone, and with a Mark McGwire-like swing, I managed to connect for a hard grounder, which inexplicably died in the infield. I didn’t run it out: At my age, I get winded playing a hand of bridge.”
Buffett has celebrated other baseball legends in his annual letters, including six-time batting champion Ted Williams, who said the key to success was waiting for the right pitches. Buffett, who built Berkshire into a business valued at more than $250 billion through stock picks and acquisitions, says he and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charles Munger emulate that approach when weighing investments.
“Unlike Ted, we can’t be called out if we resist three pitches that are barely in the strike zone,” he wrote in 1998. “Nevertheless, just standing there, day after day, with my bat on my shoulder is not my idea of fun.”